The downsizing trend that has gripped most of the real estate market during the past few years appears to be turning around, according to a survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
The sizes of family homes and lots sizes seem to have finally hit bottom and are now turning around. In the first quarter survey of 2011 by the AIA, 52 percent of respondents indicated that home sizes were decreasing while five percent indicated home sizes were increasing. Compared to the 2010 survey, where 60 percent of respondents indicated decreasing home sizes and only three percent reported an increase, the pace of decline has slowed.
Residential architects report a similar trend for the volume of homes. Declines fell from 20 percent to 18 percent. According to an article for The American Institute of Architects, until home prices begin to accelerate, it is unlikely that homes sizes and volumes will show significant gains.
Declines in homes sizes at the upper end of the market appear to be stabilizing ahead of more affordable entry-level homes. As of the first quarter survey, 8 percent of respondents reported the size of upper-end homes to be increasing, while 40 percent indicated continued decreases. For entry-level homes, only 5 percent reported increasing sizes, while 47 percent reported further declines.
Like home sizes, lot sizes have been on the decline. Land prices have fallen dramatically in many markets, which would make it less expensive to increase lot sizes. According to the article, many households are looking for low maintenance homes and yards, and it is unlikely that lot sizes will be expanding significantly anytime soon. Outdoor living continues to be a popular lifestyle preference, and therefore a popular design option.
Residential architects have been reporting weak business conditions since mid-2007, with very steep declines in late 2008 and early 2009. Billings have finally shown stronger gains in the first quarter of 2011, but since this is a traditionally busy quarter for residential architect firms, it will not be clear if there is actually an upturn in the market until the summer.
For the first quarter of 2011, backlogs averaged 3.0 months, up from 2.7 months a year ago. Business conditions are generally trending positively in all regions of the country. Again, it is too early to tell how much of this improvement may be just a seasonal bump, but trends in billings have been positive for most regions over the past year.
While residential architects are still reporting declines in all new sectors of construction, the decline pace has eased in all of the sectors except for homes targeted towards first-time buyers.